I love movies. I really do! Blame my superficial personality or my short attention span, but for yours truly, the right movie can go a long way. When I’m feeling particularly pessimistic, I like to watch the “I’ll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be!” montage in Legally Blonde where Elle proceeds to buy a computer in her bunny outfit and discover the magic of books at the library among other mildly productive rituals. When I’m in the mood to clean or reorganize, I prefer the high octane accompaniment of an inane action film, preferably Starship Troopers or Independence Day. And when I’m in the mood for an instant pick-me-up, I turn to the good old “Jazz Flute” montage from Anchorman.
This is why, gentle readers, I have been troubled by the recent skyrocketing of what I like to call the Huh?! Factor in cinema. A more virulent strain of the Cheesiness Factor, the Huh?! Factor represents the worst misstep in quality control. Think of it as the unfortunate consequence arising from a director’s decision to opt for an impromptu bathroom break, hand over the reins confidently to a misguided American Idol auditioner and return without ever checking over the footage recorded in his or her absence. For example, some would probably say that Gigli is one giant Huh?! Factor festival on steroids.
But back to the matter at hand: Although a frequent lurker within fat suit movies or gimmicky animal films, the Huh?! Factor, I’m sorry to report, seems to be crossing over into more familiar ground, namely into a genre called “Movies I’d Actually Consider Watching.” Having once again trolled Apple Trailers in an attempt to avoid actual work, I was gripped by a wave of nauseating disappointment. Where was the usual pure gold bouquet of summer blockbusters?
Instead, there were movies like Gray Matters, a schizophrenic romantic comedy so ridiculous in its premise that I wondered thrice during its trailer if I was actually supposed to be taking the movie seriously. There is a pair of siblings, you see, who are so in tuned to each other that people assume they are a couple. At this point, I was willing to bite. Despite the film’s borrowed plot prompt, originally from an episode of Friends, it starred Heather Graham, whom I have always secretly liked. So what if her character’s name happened to be Gray. I’ll just let that one slide. But that’s when the ridiculousness multiplied because Gray turns out to be gay and in love with her brother’s girlfriend-turned-fiancée (Bridget Moynahan). What? Huh? Did the writers just draw plot devices out of a giant hat one boozy afternoon?
And winning the award for most Huh?! Factor-friendly name is In the Land of Women, a more estrogen infused version of In Good Company. Updating its dorky It-Boy of the moment from Topher Grace to Adam Brody, the film seems to regurgitate the same lesson of valuing self-understanding above meeting social expectations. There’s even an Older Attractive Mentor Figure, ironically embodied by Dennis Quaid’s estranged counterpart, Meg Collagen-tastic Ryan.
Finally, there was The Condemned, a fatalistic Survivor hybrid which pits 10 death row inmates against one another on a remote island. The last one left alive is set free and the entire shebang is broadcasted live as some illegal reality show. Yeah. I think I liked this movie better when it was called Battle Royale and starred Japanese high school kids. At least back then, it provoked a session of self-reflection concerning the merits of being a competitive, college-chasing overachiever. Was I doomed for a breakfast of poisoned porridge served by my best friend? A pot lid as my only line of self defense?
Oh Hollywood, we’ve had a grand old time these many years, but I can’t be the only one doing all the work! As my student discount wears thin along with your capacity for entertainment, I find myself looking for new avenues of entertainment. And all I can think, as of this moment, is thank God for Jack Bauer.